The wildlife conservation group, the Born Free Foundation, has come out criticizing and condemning an apparent plan sanctioned by the Zambian government- to cull 2000 hippopotamuses over the next five years. The justification? A ‘wildlife management tool’ to prevent the future spread of anthrax among wild animals.
However, the motivations for the cull are in question as Born Free President and Co-Founder, Will Travers OBE, noted: “There are many questions about this abhorrent activity, questions that simply must be answered: Is it a cull or is it ‘trophy hunting’? What is the scientific rationale for killing up to 2,000 hippo (there are perhaps as few as 80,000 hippo in all of Southern Africa)? Is culling an effective way of addressing the possible spread of anthrax? Where will the money from the cull really end up? Is there truly an over-population issue with hippo in the Luangwa area?”
He continued: “At a time when wildlife populations of multiple species are under extreme pressure across much of Africa, many, including Born Free and our supporters around the world, fundamentally question the logic of killing thousands of hippo, and turning the flood plains of the Luangwa River Valley into ‘killing fields’. I am sure the hippo cull, along with Zambia’s decision to re-instate trophy hunting of lions, will cause many to question whether Zambia is the right wildlife safari destination for them. I urge the authorities to call a halt to the killing with immediate effect.”
Anthrax outbreaks among hippos is not totally rare thing in Africa. Uganda has reported a number of large outbreaks in recent years HERE, HERE. Their behavior as meat eaters in communal feeding contributes to the spread of the bacterial disease.
In addition, the eating of hippo meat in Zambia several years ago, due to a lack of food, led to a human anthrax outbreak that affected hundreds.
The Born Free Foundation reports that the hippopotamus is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List with recent population estimates suggesting that, over the past 10 years, there has been a 7%-20% decline in hippo populations.
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